Excitment in New York

I should update here a bit more.

Apparently there was some kind of [GAS MAIN ISSUE] that was causing problems in Times Square, so my bosses in the [GAS MAIN COMPANY] said I should take a look. Nearly a dozen of us [GAS MAIN WORKERS] from all three [MAIN GAS SUPPLIERS] working together to defeat this [PROBLEM WITH THE GAS SUPPLY].

Lucky all of us were there, because soon after we arrived an *incredibly huge* [GAS EXPLOSION] came out of the ground, and laid waste to the surrounding area. Someone sent the army in to [HELP] the area, but in the meantime it was up to us to defeat the [PROBLEMS CAUSED BY THE GAS EXPLOSION] as well as several people driven crazy by the [GAS].

After a few tries, we sent the [REPAIRED GAS MAIN] back where it belonged, deep in the earth.

Now I think I need a shower.

[What part of “tell nobody” did you fail to get? Fun fact: 85% of agents would not have survived this treason – KG]

Sandwarn and the Dunk In Charge

Ah, I do still have a diary. I should probably use it more, if only so I can get this right at my trial.

So, quick summary: There’s a corrupted metal filling being sold, wearing it makes people go crazy. it has *something* to do with the old dark god, and this all happened before, in ages past. Me and some old friends from Neanton have found outselves on point to unfuck this situation, and we’ve got as far as Pentelos. The head of the fortress just up the road from Pentelos was actually useful, and – once we rescued him from his subordinates who had gone crazy – has agreed to help us stockpile all this awful waste we’ve been collecting. When we got to the city, we found a helpful, useful and occasionally bribable government in place who – once we’d convinced them – banned the metal temporarily, and then scheduled a senate vote to ban it completely. Our story continues.

The new dawn of a new day, and we got to work. Have to say, the quality of the inns we can afford has gone up significantly, which is doing wonders for our rest. I woke up feeling like an entirely new man.

Anyway, the senate vote’s scheduled for today, so we agreed to check when that was, see if we can do a bit of lobbying to make sure it goes though, and then I needed to start deep research on how Pentelos fits in with the whole grand scheme. The old maps we got from the underground city say that this place had five roads out (thus “Pent”, I’d imagine). I was actually looking forward to the politics bit. I’d had a rough few days in fights, and the idea of spending a day entirely in the abstract world of bending people to my will with words appealed more than I can say.

So we wandered up to the government district and found the Senate – vote scheduled for 2:30 – Master of the Ways, who said there were four recalcitrant senators. So we went fishing.

The first Senator was easy. He wasn’t interested at all in the issue, and didn’t see why it warranted government interest. I went though the whole story. He seemed… over enthused by elven culture, so I leant a bit on the elvish-made amulets, and elven wizardry of the binding ritual and the events in the elven cities. He folded like a cheap card.

The second senator was… more difficult. Apparently the lobbyist for trading the metal was already present. We bribed the senator’s receptionist, and he let us in. I did a bit of a grandstandy bit, then threw a mild insult at the lobbist’s two guards. The plan was, roughly, to goad them into irrational behaviour and blame it on the metal. So, I said “And you can see some of it on these two bastards”, at which point they kind of drew weapons.

The resulting fight took a while. Elcathriel cast something on me that allowed me to do lots of things, so I sent the leader of them mad and got him to attack his own guard (Not, unfortunately, before he’d stabbed me), Brek mind-controlled one of them to our side, and Dave hit things with swords. We managed to incapacitate all of them (The rogue surrendered, then tried to stab us, then we tied him up, then he tried to stab himself) but one of the guards died from his leader’s poison blade. At which point the local guard turned up – the receptionist had heard the fight, The senator had escaped by a secret passage – and arrested us. Lacking the senator’s ability to confirm that we didn’t start it, we waited patiently in the antichamber for the rogue lobbyist to go crazy and attempt to stab everyone. Which he did. Our story then confirmed, I healed one of their guards – always a good way to get people on-side – and got an escort to see the other senators. (The rogue died in custody)

The third senator was being blackmailed by the lobbyist organisation, and couldn’t help. But he could – and did – give us the name of another senator – Ulrich – who hadn’t been seen for ages, but might be willing to vote with the right side.

The fourth senator had been bribed. We appealed to her sense of self-preservation (mentioned the riots in Tanacord. Not *all* the reasons for the riots in Tanacord, and implied it was all the metal. *ahem*) and noted that her previous briber was now under arrest for attempted murder of guards. She did the cheap card thing too.

Ulrich was harder.

We found his house and knocked. Nothing happened. We knocked again. Still nada. I asked Elcathriel to Knock. She obliged, and ingress was obtained.

The senator had made a considerable dent in his family wine cellar over the last year. Some personal tragedy, I would imagine. Being on the clock, I didn’t care a great deal.

We woke up the senator, gave him a drink, and explained the metal thing. He knew about the report from the fort, which was handy, but wasn’t really in any fit state to help us. I asked Dave to get a barrel full of water. The dragonborn obliged.

I explained to the senator that I needed him to be sober to save the city, and that if he couldn’t manage that, then I would need to put him in this barrel of water until he could. There’s a point where all my skills of diplomacy and persuasion are blocked by chemical imbalance, and I tend to lose my subtly at such moments. Dave dunked the senator like a digestive biscuit.

Unlike a digestive biscuit, the senator wiggled, and so Dave dropped him.

Fortunately, we then saved the senator from drowning, for we are Good Adventurers, and Rescue Citizens Like That.

Somewhat better, we get the senator on-side, and I wander off to buy a Restoration Potion (Cures: Curses, Scrapes and – aha – poisoning) but as I step out the door an arrow *dink*s off my armour. Bother. We were followed.

There’s a back entrance, so we sneak though the back streets (Brek has a spell that makes us more stealthy, which is good, because the armour that allows arrows to *dink* instead of *thud* has a tendency to *clink* instead of silence) and I pick up a potion of full restoration (1000 GP I doubt I’ll see again) and poor it down the woozy senator’s throat. The hangover evaporates from him and suddenly we have a useful person again. However, as we get to the senate, Dave spots an assassin on the roof. So close, and so not quite there yet.

We get some guards to provide some protection, and Dave immediately looms ahead, a walking dragon-shield. Brek throws up a wall of wind that blows any arrow off course (mine too, sadly) and Elcathriel starts throwing firebolts. We take the assassin out with him only getting one hit in  (on Dave. Enough to kill a normal person, and enough to annoy Dave a bit). Senator installed in Senate, bill passes, confetti everywhere.

But the Lobbyist was working for someone, and I still need to look into this city roads thing.

So to be continued, I guess.

It is abundantly clear that it’s not Ms Geary’s shoes that are at risk this evening. The Ankh, she says, referring to the combination Orochi research base and tar-pit deep in the deserts of Egypt, needs looking into. Today, I am her top agent. Today, it is my job. Yesterday it was someone else’s, and they are… not the top agent anymore. Such is advancement in the Illuminati. Being the top agent, I’m not stupid enough to go in alone.

As we descended deeper into the Ankh, the Filth on the walls got thicker. The lights are broken, the stairs are cracked, the employees of Oriachi who used to work here are… infected. But the radio tannoy system works, and there’s a dangerous lunatic on the DJ station.

He claims that daily doses of the filth have made him immune to it. Perhaps in the same way sufficient Vodka makes you immune to standing up.

He does appear to have control over those annoying purple orb things which seem to be able to disconnect me from my ability to wield anima. A strange feeling, and stranger still to describe to my former self, I suppose. Deeper we go.

Slow going though this tar stuff down the facility, especially with all the stairs out. I can’t imagine what it’s like for people who _can’t_ fall a thousand feet with no ill effects.

My life before the bees was dull, but at least the spiders were less than twelve feet tall.

…and the bouncers less than a hundred feet. Good grief, my head’s barely to his big toe…

…when I objected to twelve foot high spiders, exchanging them for thirty foot high spiders made of filth was not the aim.

And back to the giant again.

What does it say about my life that I can file a report that says “Found ancient Atan temple. Orochi have Orochi’d all over it, and the scientist found the Filth and went native. Cleaned up, cleaned out. Suspect this might be where they found the box to use on Tokyo, may be worth a chat with the Kingdom.”

Anyway, all over now. Insert one rocket, and call me in the morning.

Holiday snap from my vacation in Egypt attached. I wish I’d thought to wear something other than white, but it does make me really appreciate the Illuminati dry cleaning service.


Dear diary.

It’s been two years since my last entry. This is because shortly after my last entry the notebook you were in was suddenly on fire, along with everything else I owned.

From memory, my last entry was on the Tokyo incident, and how it must be worse than it seemed. It was that it did not seem possible that they would have to shut down so much of Tokyo for so long, and the details were so sparse… I used the word Conspiracy, and laughed.

My first entry was after I got my first bike of my own, after years of borrowing my brother’s, and sped down the hill back towards home. I remember the entry – I’ve reread it so often over the years, and thought about it so many times recently – because on my way down I swallowed an insect. It hit the back of my throat as I screamed down the hill, and I coughed, and I swerved, and I nearly crashed, nearly died.

Two years ago I swallowed a bee.

And I coughed, and I swerved, and I crashed, and I nearly died.

I think the bee was a physical manifestation of Gaia, who was the personification of the earth in Greek mythology, and if you think that’s a strange statement, today’s going to be rough on you.

It… enfused me? with Anima. Anima is some kind of life force, and I still don’t know of what kind, but the bees were released as some kind of antibody, some kind of white blood cell reaction to what happened in Tokyo. Tokyo seems to have been an explosion of a different form of life force, or force, or something. Research into it called Anima the Life, and this stuff The Blood. or the Zero Point Pathogen. Mostly, though, it’s called the Filth. If Anima comes from inside the world, The Filth comes from outside. If Anima is light, Filth is black. Both seem sentiant, or communicative. Or, if I’m right, have aspects they use to talk. Anima uses the bees, the buzzing; The Filth has the black signal.

I don’t know, and I don’t understand, but I’m trying to.

One of the effects of being infused with this anima was that I’m immortal, in a sense. If I die, I come back at an Anima well, and can either reform in my corpse, healed whole, or anew at the well. This is fortunate, because it also gave me the tendency to set things around me on fire. It took me a week before I could leave my flat to learn how to control it, to direct it. By that point they had found me.

Three groups took an interest in those recruited by the bees. The Knights Templar are grand and ordered, the Dragon are terrifying and chaotic, the Illuminati are technological and self-centered. I don’t trust Chaos and prefer concrete to polished mahogany. I took the trip to New York and joined the eye.

I might go back over what I’ve seen later on. Solomon Island was weird, Egypt was complicated, and Transylvania was… stereotypical. But this week, we got the go-ahead to enter Kaiden, the area in Tokyo that the “bomb” hit.

And now I’m terrified.

Detail’s Final Letter

To Me, Whom It May Concern.
To Attention To Detail, Eidolon of the Weaver, with any luck.
To Myself.
To The Future.
Hi there,
I am Speaker James ‘Detail’ Marshall, Blessed of the Weaver, Priest of the Pathfinder, the Lover and the Fool, Least economically useful member of Marshall Enterprises, Builder, Talismancer, Pistolier, Whitesmith & Carpenter.

I’m a living mortal human.

I was born in Shepsbourne, West Malathia in the highest hills of the Lowlands, where the shipping meets the sheep, first son to Jim Marshall, the finest blacksmith the land had ever known. From my first days I grew up on the sheep farm with my extended family until I could start my apprenticeship in the forge, as was my destiny as eldest son. My father’s family had always been Weaver, her love spreads over the family tree like a leafy vine, But my mother’s background was Smith from her native Fidellia, so I grew up between the two houses. The small but dedicated Smith community, and the sparse but loving web of the family’s Weaver faith.

It soon became obvious that I was an awful blacksmith. My inability to stay at one task for long enough, my tendency to focus on the smallest aspects over the broader picture – the tendency that gave me the name from the family to distinguish me from my father, Attention to Detail – failed to help me at all as a blacksmith. But destiny’s die was cast, and for all that the Weaver told them about tradition, stubbornness is as much a family trait. If I could just learn, I could be a smith like my father.

I had more siblings as time went on. Erik and Elan, identical twins, were born only a few years after me, and my little sister Johin some years later. The twins proved able smiths, and I dearly wished I could pass my legacy onto them instead.
And I was engaged. Eliza, who I had known since we were both knee-high, was my co conspirator in all things and my dearest friend, until we accidentally fell in love one cold winter.
It wasn’t winter when she died. She was up on the top of a hill, the very vision of a beautiful shepherdess tending her flock, when five sailors up from the docks a few miles away, drunk on rum and their own stupidity, decided to sample a slice of the country life for themselves, find out how true the stories of what the shepherdesses would do for a lonely sailor up on the moors were. She clocked two of them with her staff before they got her, but there were five of them. I was heading up to the hill with my wedding present to us, a set of two engraved shortswords, the best metalwork I have ever done and will ever do, but I arrived too late. My fiancee was on the floor, bloody and bruised and her head against the rock she had obviously landed on. Dead, and worse.

I do not quite know how the next few minutes happened. I was… gone somewhere, I think. My next memory is surrounded by their bodies with the swords in my hands, bleeding heavily, and aware that I’d just killed five men. I staggered backwards, which proved to be a mistake, as I tumbled down the hill towards the road. I lay there on the side of the road, unable to move my broken legs, slowly bleeding out, and decided this was probably justice for killing people. I passed out.
I was, obviously, rescued. I was taken in by Speaker McLintock of the church of the woven braid in Nordon, who was making his monthly trip around the high parts of the lowlands to take care of our spiritual well being and now, in my case, physical. As I recovered in the quarters of the church house, I got him to promise not to tell my parents or family where I was, that they would all be better without me. As I recovered in the sound of the bells I found my own faith. Not the faith of my family, but my own path though the Weaver. I was taught of the aspects, of the nature of being a priest. The braid – the Nordon version – has always been a church of all the aspects, and whatever aspect is appropriate at the time, and they taught me when the time was. When I suggested that I should go to the new world, join my fabled cousin Stuart and escape this land, McLintock said I could be their representative They gave me the title of Speaker, and I rejected it. I didn’t want to be a priest, in the new world I could make pistols, and find out more of this new magic. They gave me the title anyway, and bought me passage on a ship. When I got aboard the boat, my cabin had an envelope in it with an arrangement with the Rimici Capell to build a new Blacksmith’s workshop in the new world if I could find land. It was signed by my father, who added “Good Luck”. Turns out McLintock told him anyway. Thinking later, I would have done the same thing.

I came to the new world on a ship, and found my cousin and what appeared to be his new girlfriend Fiona, another cousin – Anna – from a far branch of the family as well as Fergal. I met my new family as they trudged off to the quarterly religious festival, Shenanigans, hosted by the Malathian colony, where I got sunstroke and barely left the tent the entire weekend.
After that time speeds up, a bit.

When I met Gin Tang, on the verge of killing my cousin Kyle for wearing black while nobody knew who he was, and ended up discussing the importance of Heresy in the church.

When Speaker Kyle left the New World, declaring the Weaver church in it to be beyond saving, I decided he was wrong.

When I watched the Church of the Loom attempt to mass up against one of the greatest forces in the world at the time, and fail and run into hiding.

When I decided the church was worth saving.

The next few years are a blur, where I got to know people, where I tried to make people talk to each other. A blur of initiations and reputations, of failures (many, many failures) and successes.

You helped unite the Weaver church in the new world. Eventually.

I fell in love again, eventually, with Amelia. I helped eidolons come to terms with eternity to such an extent that I longed for it myself.

I lived. My friends died all around me. I was loved, I was betrayed, I forgave and I hated in good measure.

I am human.

In front of me as I write this letter is a bottle. Two bottles, actually. When I set so many people sourcing the potion for me, I should have been slightly less surprised when two of them succeeded so very shortly after I had given up.

The potion, I know, will kill me. So the letter exists so that you can read it, so that you should keep it, so that you should know who I was. With any luck, who you were. Unless you are not the one who I was.

Because there are two choices. Either this kills me and I fall into the waiting arms of my lady, or I fall and I keep falling,

and my friends will not be able to save me if the Weaver doesn’t catch me.

For the great secret is this: I don’t have faith in the Weaver. I believe that her path is the best, and I believe that her embrace is the closest and finest, but I’ve never been able to have faith. I have faith in her believers, and in my friends. So now I take a leap of faith, my first, where I do something in the hope that my goddess will catch me.

And the letter is so that I remember who I was.

And the letter is so that if I fall, someone understands why.

To understand why I have faith in people, you need to know who I had faith in.

Detail’s Sermon Library: Hope

The cathedral doesn’t dominate the landscape, but the gem does. The cathedral is hidden behind a fog of swirling mists and tendrils of smoke that protect the cathedral inside from the armies camped around it, ready for the signal, waiting for the charge. The gem seems to float above, sparkling in the sunlight of high noon. Away from all of them, on a hill that overlooks the battlefield, Speaker James Marshall, known generally as Detail, stands ahead of his trembling flock of villagers and other local inhabitants, puts his back to the mess behind him, and continues.

“Where there is darkness, we need hope. We gather around one person’s hope like moths heading to a candle and – like the moths – we start to carry the flame ourselves. Hopefully, our flame of hope is less fatal to us than to the moths. Hope is not like a bottle, to be passed around until its empty, or hoarded for yourself. Hope is a flame, that catches to everybody else, that is not extinguished unless you neglect or kill it, that can spread forever if you nurse it, and that lights up the world.

If people tell you that hope is easy, they will be lying to you. Hope is hard. When the rains of failure damp your soul, when the tides of fate lick at the edges of your island, when the water around you is rising and you cannot keep your hope aloft, then you will lose hope, and the only way to get it back is to find someone who still carries the flame within them, and light your own taper. For the good of your own fate, then, for the good of your own happiness you should keep your hope alive, and spread it to those around you, so that when it dies your friends and your family can pick you up, even if your own strength has failed.

Where there is hope, there is order, or its possibility. There are the foundations for the things you need to build, for the things you need to learn, for the tasks you must undertake to get from where you are now to where you must be. With the fire of hope spreading as far as you can fan it, tasks become more trivial, help becomes easy.

Where there are people with hope, there are people who cause despair. There are those who will take your hope from you, who will work against you, who will restrict your endeavour, who will attack and kill your dreams and yourselves. Defend against them, by all means, but make them fear the consequences. Make sure they know what will happen when they break your rules.
And I could go on, for a long time. I was given the title Speaker before I came to this land, and it was not without consideration. I could tell you of the aspects of the Weaver, how the fire of hope licks against the feet of all of us. I could spread my wings out to the rest of the faiths, stretch the foundations of hope and learning all the way from the Builder to the Teacher, stretch the doing of what must be done from the Midwife to the Smith, Stretch the justice and darkest hours from the Spider all the way to the Huntress.

But I’ve never felt that’s the most important thing. What you do is important, how you do it is even more so. If you do the best good in the world, but you do it on a road constructed from the corpses of everyone else, your good is tainted. As so do I feel about the doing of anything without the thought behind it, doing the thing that must be done because it’s the thing you thought of first, rather than the thing that fixes the problems best.”

Forgive and Forget

The roads aren’t safe to travel alone anymore, so he walks behind a caravan. They like having him around, as a priest, even if he’s something of a strange one. At night, he goes away from the fire into the forest, beyond sound’s reach of the fire, and he digs five holes with his hands.

From the white canvas bag at his hip he takes a stone bottle, empty save a last few mouthfuls of a thick liquid.

“Karen. I’m sorry I couldn’t help you, and I wish the only one who could is far from this world. For all it’s what you seem to have wanted, your new peace falls badly with me, and your voice will never leave my side or my heart. The last of the peppermint vodka is yours, there will be no more. I’ll look after them as best I can. Builder bless.”

He places the bottle in the hole, and fills it.

“Carol. Your smile in the darkness, your wit in the night, your comfort when the blackest depths of the sea were drowning me. You are worth more than you ever realised, and your lack is a hole in the world. I have nothing of yours to return to you, and your soul is beyond any reach I have. This is the ribbon of the festival of the lover I was given five years ago. You will never know it is yours, but it is. Spider watch you.”

The hole is covered over again, hidden as if it had never been.

“Sethet. What a time to switch sides, just so you can stand on the walls instead of in front of the gate. I’m glad I knew you, if not so well, and I hope you get what you want. I made this myself. The steel isn’t good, but the blade is sharp for now. Solider keep you.”

The glint of a dagger, then the packed earth remains.

“Patrick. To survive the blight of Malathia only to die at your own hand. I’m sorry for what we lost, but I’m glad that I met you. Some ky, for your journey, and may the Weaver bless your path”

There is only one hole remaining, now.

“My lady. So many have died that I do not name, and after so long these little memorials must line every road I’ve travelled on. Gifts for the future, perhaps, if there is one. This last one isn’t for the dead, though. This one is for me. Her memorial is in the lives she touched, and the site she died. And to the latter I won’t return, and the former seem to be moving on. I think it may be time to let go of my own failure for a bit, see how that goes.”

The priest unties a green and white woven string from the hooks of his jacket, lays it in the hole, and covers it with the wet earth.

“In the name of the fool, I throw away things that are of value to me. In the name of the pathfinder, I hope that one day someone finds them, and makes use. In the name of the builder, I recognise and build on these foundations towards a better life. In the name of the Weaver, I lay these memories to rest.”

He goes back to the fire, and later to sleep in his small tent. When he wakes, the world is brighter, and he can’t even remember which direction from the fire circle he walked last night, and doesn’t try too hard. He trails behind the caravan as it leaves, lost in his own reflections, until one of the off-duty guards drops back to talk to him.

“Speaker Marshall? You mentioned last night how the first protection from the undead is devotion?”
“Sounds like something I’d say, yes”.
“Could you tell me about the Weaver?”

“Well, Faith is like this hat…

A man with a hammer

There are very few things in this world quite so very satisfying to the overly stressed and extremely frustrated than an elongated opportunity to hit things with a hammer.

Each wooden plank, heavier than even the strongest man could lift, was soundly rammed into place personally.

Every single nail a thought.

Every wedge a memory.

Every angle, every measurement, every step on the plan.

A. Detail Marshall.

The A standing for Architect.






The slaves quickly adapted to their latest master, taking his strange obsessive compulsion to oversee every operation himself as just another crazy tic of just another crazy master. The stone base was laid quickly, and the beam framework went up within a few days, a small building in a simple Malathian style, and the careful construction of the walls continued, wooden slats filling in every gap, rough tiles interlocking over the roof. Every side, every angle, measured twice, cut once.

Within a fortnight the basic building was complete, and work on the inside began, in carving and stonework, furniture and fashion.

Not a beam went in without the architects final tap, not a slat was installed that he didn’t check the grain on.

For the ages, we build beauty. For the future, we build well. For those around us, we build strong, and we build things worth looking at.

For the ages, and the Builder.

With every nail, an element of the buzzing in his head is cleared. A fly, screaming of paths untaken, is swatted. A worm, burrowing though memories looking for things we should have seen, is crushed. A distraction is diverted. With every pew – Ah, Pew – installed, the burden gets lighter.

And less than three weeks since the bare plot of land lay under the sun, the building is completed, and the keys to the bolts handed over (“A gift, as far as you can accept it”), the architect walks away from his commission, his troubles worked out through the beams, and realises that if anyone were ever to know how focused he could be if necessary, he could be in real trouble.

The more obvious work of the Builder done for the time being, it was time to go make people think, if only for a moment.

And Again

The hillside was dark, and it was raining blood again.

The daggers in his hands cut scored his skin, sharp at both ends, digging further in and adding his life to the sticky, sodden mud around him.

Sure it didn’t used to be this vertical, he continued, pulling himself up by digging the knives into the hillside (Which screamed every time).

A decade passed, and the top of the hill was there.

Eliza’s corpse lay, again, in the centre of the plataeu at the top of the hill. Johin’s corpse. Amelia’s corpse. The rain curtained off around the top of the hill, a dry circle you could cross in a second or hike over for the rest of your life, and his corpse was in the middle of it. He stood.

Unarmed, he was surrounded by four victims and murderers. Sailors and governors and fathers and teachers and priests and well meaning friends and ill meaning relatives and brothers and cousins and everything and everybody and his life and his god. In four people. With the words they attacked him (“Can’t you do anything?”) so sharp and well placed (“At least get something right”) that (“You’re destined to be a third rate failure”) he can’t tell he is bleeding (“A poor student”) until he slips on his own blood (“shows no attention”) and tumbles off the mountain, though the steel rain to be a lifeless ruin on the road below (“to detail”).

and again.

The hillside was bright, and the sky was blue.

The words in his heart couldn’t be completely translated, but they scored the minds of the people he spoke to, digging in and adding more thought to the people before him.

Sure it didn’t used to be this easy, he concluded, Closing out the themes with the words of another from a small yellow book, which worked every time.

The moment passed, and the crowd was still there.

Eliza’s corpse lay, again, in the centre of the plateau. Buried under the earth she’d been killed over, under the church now built here. A church you could see all of in a second, and help people from for the rest of your life. He preached in the middle of it.

Unworried, he was surrounded by friends and family. Traders and governers, princes and fathers, Teacherites and Huntress followers. Well meaning priests and ill-meaning subversives and everybody and his life and his god. In all. With the words they asked him (“Did I do good?”), as if his opinion and thoughts (“You’ve been a real help”) were of any value at all (“I’d like you to be my priest”), and his time not totally wasted (“if you’re in any trouble, run”) on the work he did (“to Detail”).

and again.

The hillside was dismal, and the cold drizzle cut to the bone.

The worries in his mind shot though him, spinning and unraveling, shouting and screaming, rendering rational judgement impossible.

Sure life didn’t used to be this frantic, he sat, pulling his mind together into some semblance of logic, which took quite some time.

A tremor passed, and the top of the hill was moving.

Eliza’s corpse lay, again, in the centre of the plataeu at the top of the hill. Around them more boiled out of the mud. Raoul’s corpse. Erin. Tormaline. Gwen. Canashir. Tac. Jig. Jin. Tami. Amalie. Ansillina. Amelia. Kala. Dreamer. Ishtar. Hame. Patch. Will. Jacob. James. Stepan. Brent, Marcus, Sha, KP, Kass. More and more. Stuart. Fiona. Ferris. Piling high until they couldn’t all fit and started tumbling down the hillside, a mountain of corpses you could cross in a day or mourn for the rest of your life, and on the edges of it, he stood.

Unafraid, he was surrounded by victims and murderers. Friends and family. Fighters and planners. Righters, Writers and Riters. Corpses of everything and everybody and their lives and their goals. In hundreds. With his words he returned them (“My lady please look upon me as I serve you”), in places railed and preordained (“I am unworthy of speaking of their life, but they were important to many people”) and in others chaotic and rambling (“but then, the only people who can speak of them with truth”), but always with heart and feeling (“and so, I recommend that you ask them yourself”), the most that he can ever do (“as I lay all my friends to rest”).

and again.

Vines, Dryads, Goblins, Alcohol, FIRE, FIRE, FIRE , FIRE, FIRE

I’m still on the road with the people I started on the caravan with. There’s Stephanie, a somewhat crazed halfling with a weapons fixation and a truly terrifying tendency towards sudden surprise stabbings; “Kate” a city-born elf rebelling against her parents, apparently by setting things on fire; “Dave”, whose real name I have no concept of the ability to spell, is a half-dragon fighter; and Brek is a previously sensible dwarf.

We’ve been hired to guard the caravan, but have gotten involved in assayer’s guild politics which mean we’re now on the trail of some armour made from a mystical substance. Kate appears to think that this substance drives people irrational, but I suspect that’s an elven prejudice thing and it just drives people capitalist. Either way, there’s a faction of the guild who want to mine and sell it for all it’s worth, and a faction who want to study it. Both are currently stymied by the fact that the big delivery of the stuff that was due in to Gradfort was captured by goblins. We’ve now been hired to recover as much as we could.

So, we follow the tracks out of the city and off into a random dirt track in the forest, come to a clearing, continue down the path where we find the remains of the cart they stole the stuff from – and a dead goblin – and then doubled back to the clearing, where I got to try the ritual Candor taught me to put together a camp site with the aid of sprites. Up until now, we’ve been sleeping under the wagons or in forts, and before that I rarely left the city. Kate decided to attempt to get back to her eldrin roots – quite literally – and started talking to the trees. We put people up on guard and the rest of us slept. My watch was quiet as the grave, fortunately.

Notably, and this is partly to remind myself of “things to do next time”, one of the things we did not do was check what had killed the goblin, otherwise we might have been a bit more wary, but as it was it was still dark when Kate heard something suspicious and woke up Brek, who confirmed something was up – he’s more outdoorsy than any of us, despite Kate’s pretensions – who woke the rest of us up.

So, there I was, in nightshirt and boots, holding my song-blade and looking every inch the respected bard, when the fucking vines started attacking us.

Goblins? yeah, done goblins. Quite a lot recently, as it happens, both in pre- and post-death forms. Dragonlings, snakes, shape-shifters. Still, I was expecting more to be attacked by fauna than flora; I dived back into my tent to find my chain-mail and get dressed in it. By the time I’d got back out and shook it down around me, Brek was up to his eyes in vine and another was snaking towards me, half dead from having encountered Stephanie on the way. It caught me once, but a couple of piercing insults took it the rest of the way to its chosen arboreal abyss – I’ve no idea how insulting vines to death actually works, but I don’t question the magic and it doesn’t question me – and healed Brek as he cut and slashed his way out and Kate set up her useful field of fire that incinerated everyone in it. Eventually, and after some strenuous effort on everybody’s part, we’d got most of them knocked out or dead, when a dryad stepped out of a tree in order to aid us. Of course, none of us knew it was a dryad until Brek told us, but with the dryad’s assistance we cleaned up the clearing.

The dryad thanked us for our assistance, and we thanked her for hers, and this went on for a little while until we asked about the goblins. Apparently they were logging part of the forest a way further on, and the dryads would arrange a path between us and them in the morning when they were likely to be dead drunk. We promised to take the alcoholic haze out of that description, and retreated back to bed until morning.

In the morning there was a path that appeared to have been there for years leading directly out of our clearing, and there was breakfast, and then we packed up and wandered up the path until the stench of a goblin camp alerted us to the existence of the goblin camp. While we hid out behind some logs, I sent out my familiar – Did I mention I’d got a cat familiar? I picked it up on the trail – to look around the camp. undetected, the cat picked out six goblins drunk and asleep around the fire, another dozen in some kind of barracks, and a couple on watchtowers, two goblins in the entire camp were awake, and there were a number of barrels of alcohol outside a makes-shift still in a hut,the barrels were mostly empty. Stephanie creeped in after the cat, and managed to take out five completely silently before one noticed her. Halfway though the final one, though, she was spotted, and didn’t quite manage to kill her target straight off.

A few days ago, maybe a couple of weeks at this point, Stephanie had picked up a parasite of some description, the result of which – as we’d found out that morning – was that she could now shoot this horrible viscous goo from her arms. It was a bit horrible, and wasn’t without side effects, but it meant that she could shoot the goblin target in progress in the face with this stuff. I’d imagine that was a particular nasty way to die.

I took a suitably heroic pose on top of the pile of logs we were standing on, and insulted the mother of the goblin on the watchtower, who happened to have a very large longbow, and was shooting two arrows at a time, which I felt was excessive. Fortunately, he missed. Meanwhile Kate was blasting people from her position hidden behind the still, and Dave had blocked the door to the barracks and was sweeping his sword though anyone who attempted to pass him. The tower-guarding goblin took a couple more potshots at me, and while he only hit with one – yay chainmail – the logs I was standing on took a battering, and I was attempting to keep my balance as the ropes that held them frayed and snapped. Meanwhile, some of the goblins trapped in the barracks escaped out the back near the watchtowers, and one made it as far as the still.

This bit I’m still putting together a bit, as I was still balancing on these logs to some extent, but as far as I can tell, at almost exactly the same time, Stephanie got a grappling hook around one of the legs of a watchtower, and pulled. The tower fell towards the escaping goblins, depositing thelongbowman I’d been insulting on top of them. As she did that, Brek – who you will remember is the sensible, nature knowing, sane one – decided to throw one of the remaining barrels of alcohol into the still. There was a crash as it hit the torch, and a “Whomp” as it caught light. Brek screamed that he’d just done that.

I regained my balance on the logs, and rode the avalanche to the middle of the clearing; Kate ran full pelt from her position beside the still – which was about to go bang – into the corner of the clearing, Brek ran straight to hide behind the barracks, and Dave picked up the goblin in front of him and threw it onto the pile of goblins which had been hit by the watchtower, then ran to Brek. The remaining goblin on the remaining watchtower then decided to give up and launched himself from the thirty foot tower onto Stephanie, who didn’t quite move fast enough and was impaled by the falling goblin. I healed Stephanie as best I could, ran into the barracks and activated my teleporting amulet, swapping places with Kate, who then used her flaming fire field on the pile of goblins that had been under the tower.

There was an earth shattering kaboom.

The walls of the still expanded outwards slightly, and then blew into flaming splinters which evaporated as they spread out. The flat roof bowed upwards and then shot upwards, landing in pieces around an nearby, causing small fires where they landed, and the inside of where the building had stood was afiery inferno.

Stephanie was protected by a tree and a shield of dead goblin meat, both of which basically evaporated. The barracks ceiling collapsed, narrowly missing Kate, and Brek and Dave were protected by the barracks. I wasn’t quite so lucky. My perfect view of the massive explosion had the downside that the barrels were thrown straight at me, and I was hit by two of them, which hurt. a few brief skirmishes later we cleared up the rest of the goblins, and now the others are putting out the fires whilst me and Stephanie recover a bit.

Soon, we’ll have to explain to the dryads why we set the forest on fire, and after that we’ll have explain why we’re giving back what we can find of the armour in a somewhat molten state where it’s not smelling of roast goblin.

Meanwhile, I think I should sit down a while.